One of the things I love most about living in Melbourne is that you don’t have to go very far to be transported to the other side of the world.
For the last 10 years we have been travelling to France (or more accurately to South Yarra) – listening to French jazz, sipping on French champagne and eating amazing croissants at the spectacular Paris to Provence.
So how did this amazing event start?
Well, that story can only be told by its founder Laura Rancie, who took her passion of the French culture, food, wine ans style – to create an event that made us all feel the ‘L’ amour’, while also juggling the the responsibilities that comes with being a wife and busy mother of three.
Congratulations on the 10th year anniversary of Paris to Provence – you must be so thrilled. How did you come up with the idea?
My parents are French and migrated to Australia when I was young but we never knew French people growing up. I felt that being “French” was something private and I hated friends knowing I was “different”. As a kid I would be “forced” to eat Paella / Ratatouille / Boullaibaisse and all the Frenchy traditional recipes from the South of France, that my parents brought with them here.
My dad was a Chef so food was a big part of growing up, but I hated it! I wanted to fit in like my friends and eat “steak and three veg” like I’d see their families eat. Being French made me different – Oddly, it wasn’t until I studied at college in Hawaii that I embraced my French heritage. I came back as an adult wanting to find the French community of Melbourne. I knew there was one – but back then it was perhaps a bit more isolated than today.
These days I love every French food ever made – and lucky, the food, people and culture are a big landscape part of Melbourne’s identity now.
But I am proud to say that Paris to Provence was the first French festival in Australia.
I can’t quite believe it’s been TEN editions of the festival! Looking back I remember being pregnant with my second child for the first event and didn’t yet know it. Last year I gave birth to baby number three, 14 days after the festival.
I feel it’s such an intrinsic and personal part of my life that I share with people – it’s definitely another family member with attitude, personality, and character. It’s taken on its own force and sometimes I just sit in my studio and think “… ok … festival … what do you need from me this year?”
The French culture is so incredibly rich and beautiful, how hard was it to translate that in Melbourne?
Very easy! Aussies, adore France.
They have a love affair with it – the culture, the accent, the scenery and of course the wine. Melbourne is already a leader in the food scene and to go anywhere we are very used to travelling, we also love events – so that canvas made it very easy for me to create a whimsical French pop up village. It blended in seamlessly from the beginning.
Was this always the vision you had?
Definitely not – I remember standing at the Abbotsford Convent for the very first edition minutes before opening the doors. My husband asked what I wanted out of the day and I hoped for a thousand visitors. Hell, I hoped for ANY visitors.
We received well over 5000 people and were sold out of everything after lunch. That day, the then site manager of Como House & Garden had been in attendance and persuaded me to take it to their National Trust property. The rest is history!
What are some of the exciting things we can expect this year?
I really wanted to touch on something a bit more “cultural” and not so Cliché (even though berets and croissants are fun). Les Plus Beaux Villages de France association is something very dear to all Frenchies and for Aussies – it evokes memories, and passion. So, with this theme I knew I was onto a winner for creating a really beautiful 2018 layout.
I’m also thrilled to announce that we’ve been given permission by Megan Hess’ team to recreate The World of Claris; the chicest mouse in Paris. Her children’s book just released this year, will come to life in the pavilion through an interactive display. You’ll get to step into her Parisian Mouse apartment.
But all the regular features will be back too – French Bulldogs in France’y Dress party, croissant tossing, escargot eating, food and wine, French jazz, tours of Como House and much more.
As a business woman – what do you think is the secret to balance?
I’ve tried over the years this allusive “balance” idea, thinking it meant having all my priorities evenly distributed at once all the time. I’ve realised that for me, it’s impossible have my life perfectly balanced all the time. My idea of balance these days is that there is a time and a season to everything. My family know that the last few months of the year is Festival time.
It’s okay to get extra help as needed (babysitter, cleaner etc. – my family don’t live here). And then at other times of the year, it’s holiday time, or down time, or family time or chill out time or sport season etc.
I guess that’s my version of balance with three kids and a business owner. My husband also is very supportive, very helpful and I couldn’t do much of this without his help – probably emotionally more than anything.